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Shichi Narabe

“Shichi” is the Japanese word for the number seven while “narabe” means “in a row,” and that is the basis for the card game “Shichi Narabe” when players simply take turns laying down cards in numerical order. A version of the game “Sevens,” Shichi Narabe is a quick and easy game to learn how to play, perfect for children and party guests.

To increase the length of play, you can keep track of points for each round; otherwise, to simplify, you simply declare the first person to be rid of his cards the winner. Best played with four people, Shichi Narabe may be played with three to seven people although the number of cards starting out with be uneven.

To begin: Deal out 13 cards to each of four players (or deal out all the cards to more or fewer players with some ending up with one more card). Then, players take out the 7 cards in their hands and place them across the middle of the table.

The object: To be the first to get rid of all the cards in your hand.

First play: The first player must play a card in his hand by placing it next to one of the four 7s in the center of the table. It must be a number adjacent to a 7, or in other words, it must be either a 6 or an 8. It must match the 7’s suit (spades, clubs, diamonds, hearts). If he cannot play any 6 or 8, he must pass. He can only pass three times during a game.

Second play: The next player must play a card in his hand by placing it next to one of the cards in the center of the table. It must be an adjacent number (a 5, 6 or 8) and match the suit.

Play continues with each player until one player has no cards in his hand. For simplified play, declare him the winner and deal again for a new game. For extended play, the other players count the remaining cards in their hands (each picture card is worth 10 points while the number cards have their face value.) Keep track of each player’s points.

To win: At the end of the designated number of games, the player with the least points wins.

This is a contemporary Japanese card game as you can tell by the use of the standard western 52-card deck. In ancient Japan, refined card games were played by nobility. The working class simply lacked time for leisure. Portuguese ship workers introduced card playing and gambling but when Japan closed its borders to outsiders during the Edo Period during its 250-year policy of seclusion, gambling card games were banned. Although such games still were played underground, creative players designed new types of card decks with artful images and no numerical characters in order to evade the law.

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